Anthony Davis made one three point basket last season. Remember it?
I certainly do. I was standing nervously in my dorm room, holding my League Pass-streaming laptop, with two friends on either side of me. As I tried to persuade them (and myself) that "it ain't overtime yet", I was internally in a muddle. My friend Kyler was laughing, probably at my spasmodic shaking, but managed to fit in a $1300-saving interjection.
"You might want to set your laptop down, just in case you're right."
Thank you, Kyler.
Of course, I'm referring to that miraculous, double-clutch, long-ranged, swishing three-pointer as the buzzer rang in the background. It was the shot over the extended arms of Andre Roberson and under Kevin Durant that put the Pelicans in the playoffs, giving them the ultimately deciding tiebreaker over the Oklahoma City Thunder on the night of February 6, 2015.
Few shots in the history of the NBA regular season have had such importance, been so perfectly on-target under duress, and been so timely. Davis might never have another that perfect the rest of his glorious career.
However, the expansion of his range would still bring a new element to Davis's game and help him acclimate to the defense's intense pressure inside the arc. And it could be a great push forward for the Pelicans.
Head coach Alvin Gentry seems to agree:
"I want you (Davis) to continue to work and expand your range. You should be a good corner three-point shooter."
It makes sense. Last year, Davis found the paint sprayed with opposing jerseys whenever he tried to go off the dribble. And on pick-and-rolls, the defense would cling to Davis like green on grass, even if it meant allowing the ball-handler an empty road to the basket.
Therefore, Davis had to work on his iso game and his midrange shooting, as those became his primary inputs and opportunities to score. Although Davis was blockaded from the inside more than ever, he shot a career-high field goal percentage (.535), which serves as nothing but a testament to his work ethic.
Next year, the defense will likely be even less likely to abandon Davis, meaning that he will once again have to expand his range. Something that he proved last year will be NOOOO PROBLEM.
From 10-16 feet, Davis shot an efficient 45.1%. Step back anywhere from 16 feet to three-point range, Davis shot a very respectable 41.9%.
All indications point towards Davis having the necessary abilities and touch to hit the short-corner three. Because this isn't MKG we're talking about, AD possesses a shooting stroke that you can raise your kids watching. And each year in the NBA, he has extended his range.
Going into just his fourth season, he has the form, skill, and work ethic to incorporate the three into his arsenal. It's simple, he just has to practice it. It's just shot selection that becomes the matter of attention.
What happens to some stretch 4's is that they start to rely on the three because it's easier to stand in a corner than bang below. They sacrifice rebounding and inside presence as a result.
As Chris Bosh developed a three, his rebounding numbers dropped drastically. He came into Miami averaging 10.8 boards and .3 three-point attempts a game in his last Toronto season. Ever since he started shooting a three a game, his rebounding averages have gone 6.8, 6.6, and 7.0.
Worse, Bosh did not even shoot the three efficiently until last year (37.5%). His first season attempting a decent amount of threes, he hoisted up a poor 28.4%. While his scoring numbers picked up after LeBron James left, the same could not be said for his rebounding.
So, although Davis has all of the essentials that big men need to learn the three, the most important skill is knowing when to shoot it. For Davis, he cannot become a corner-kick man; that would truncate his potential. Instead, he only needs to take threes when the defense is so sagged off, or when he catches and shoots in a rhythm.
If AD runs to the corner on every kick opportunity, the Pelicans have fettered the flying man.
Davis is a big man, albeit one with the abilities of a guard, but he's a strict power forward. He averages 2.5 offensive rebounds a game, and 24.4 points. And while standing outside widens the floor for everybody else, Davis should have the floor widened for him, not vise versa.
The three will be a great skill for Davis to have. If he's setting a screen, and the defense is waiting for him at the midrange to prevent his passage, it would be immensely beneficial to bounce back and net a three. Or if he just takes a step back on some of the midrange shots he took last year, and gets three instead of two, that would be an extra few points every game. Those extra points win games.
Please, just don't rely on him becoming a three-point shooter and don't desire it. Davis should not be the bail-out corner option nor a consistent floor spacer. He's "the best player in the NBA not named Lebron" -- thanks for the quote again, Alvin.
Davis should look to turn his 20-foot jumpers to 22-foot threes, and use it only when there's no risk of him missing out on post involvement because of it. That's it. Taking threes is risky, and Gentry surely knows that. It's integral to impose the importance of selective shot-taking to a player like Davis trying stretching his range. Shoot for top ten all time, don't shoot for Chris Bosh.
But let's remember: Davis is a brilliant basketball mind so he should have no problem using the three with great discretion. He proved his pickiness by only launching 12 three's last season despite claiming he worked on them over last summer.
With great power comes great responsibility. The three has proven a great power, and Davis has proven responsible.
With three-point capabilities, Davis really becomes unguardable. He rises so high on his shots that a smaller defender cannot contest and he is so quick that any power forward would be stumbling behind if he drove. The pick-and-pop would become an even more efficient, reliable resource for the Pelicans.
The seamless incorporation of a three for Davis means trouble for the rest of the league. Well then, Alvin, give 'em trouble.